Tengku Adnan:Overstaying his welcome


April 19, 2018

Tengku Adnan:Overstaying his welcome

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An Empty UMNO Vessel Makes the Most Noise

Tengku Adnan, the (caretaker) Minister for Federal Territories and UMNO Secretary-General followed a well-worn pattern of fearmongering when he warned recently of the threat posed by Christian evangelists.

Speaking to civil servants in Putrajaya last week, he cautioned them to be wary of the DAP (and by extension Pakatan Harapan) because, according to him, many DAP leaders are Christian “evangelists.”

Continuing, he stated that from Catholicism they become Protestants and from Protestants they become evangelists and born-again Christians, Methodists, etc.  “If they are Catholics, I can still believe them,” he said, “but when they are evangelists, they are considered new Christians. It is a problem.”

He went on to hint that the country’s sovereignty, the special rights of the Malays, the Malay language and many other things would be “destroyed if we are not careful.”

Appalling ignorance 

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UMNO Kelptocrats with the their Boss

In the first place, his remarks reveal an appalling ignorance about the Christian faith. He does not appear to even understand some of the Christian terms that he uses and yet  he is ready to condemn Christians. And he insults all Christians by trying to divide the Christian community into good Christians and bad Christians on the basis of their denominational affiliation.

If that is what he believes, he should explain what he thinks of the evangelical Christians who until the dissolution of parliament sat with him in cabinet and are part of BN. Are they, too, considered a threat to national security or are they good Christians by virtue of their support for UMNO?

An admission of failure?

The penchant of UMNO leaders to divert attention from pressing national issues by constantly playing up one imaginary threat or another – the Chinese, the Christians, the Jews, etc. – is tiresome and speaks more about their political bankruptcy than anything else.

It is, as well, simply mindboggling that a senior UMNO minister would be even obtuse enough to suggest that a small minority faith community [there are less Christians than UMNO members, for goodness sake] could depose the monarchy, overthrow the government, impose their faith on Muslims and abolish Malay rights. And this in a country that is staunchly Islamic, where Malay-Muslims vastly outnumber other ethnic and religious groups and have a near total monopoly of political, economic and military power.

If Tengku Adnan genuinely believes that our national institutions are still so weak and vulnerable after more than 60 years of UMNO rule, it would be a stunning admission that UMNO has completely failed the Malays, and indeed all Malaysians, and should be promptly removed from office come May 9th.

Faith and politics 

Of course, everyone understands that UMNO and the DAP are sworn political enemies and disagree on almost every issue. In a democracy, however, politicians discuss and debate their differences in a sensible and civilized way in order to give the voting public a better understanding of their respective positions.

What they don’t do is belittle their opponents’ religious beliefs or indulge in blatant racism and bigotry.

As a politician, Tengku Adnan should have the courage, if not the decency, to meet his political opponents head-on in a debate and challenge them on issues of importance rather than hide behind the walls of bigotry and hate and make snide remarks about their faith.

And in case he hasn’t noticed, non-Muslim politicians have, in general, been careful not to inject their faith into politics. You don’t hear non-Muslim politicians quoting their respective religious text, framing issues in a religious context or demonizing other faiths when discussing political issues.

It is not because they are less fervent in their faith but because they understand that in a multi-faith setting it is best to leave religion out of politics. After all, they are not in politics to promote their faith or to burnish their religious credentials but to promote policies, programmes and ideas that would help build a united, stable and prosperous nation for all Malaysians irrespective of race or religion.

Issues that matter 

Tengku Adnan should also know that the Christian agenda, if there is indeed one, is the same agenda that all Malaysians share  – a peaceful, united and prosperous nation. In fact, it was what UMNO itself used to care about before it allowed itself to be seduced by power and privilege. 

Rather than focusing on imaginary threats and sowing division and discord, therefore, Tengku Adnan might better serve voters by focusing on the issues that matter to  all Malaysians  – respect for the Constitution, good governance, corruption, national unity, the rising national debt, and the high cost of living. 

All the other issues – the position of Islam, the monarchical system, the special rights of Malay-Muslims as enshrined in the Constitution – are, in reality, non-issues because they are accepted and respected by all Malaysians including Christians. Only politically bankrupt leaders keep harping on these things because they have nothing better to talk about.

A great disservice

Tengku Adnan does Christians a great disservice by cynically stoking anti-Christian hostility to advance his political objectives. It recklessly endangers the safety and security of Christians at a time when radical militants are already targeting non-Muslims places of worship, as the police warned recently. It also feeds the kind of sentiment that very likely led to the abduction and forced disappearance of three Christian leaders last year. He ought to be ashamed of himself.

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Message to Minister Nazri Aziz: Don’t Talk Crude


February 27, 2018

Message to Minister Nazri Aziz: Don’t Talk Crude

Pondan? Ayam? What has become of this country?

Racism has to be opposed from the top down.


January 20, 2017

Racism has to be opposed from the top down.

by Azmi Sharom
Image result for racist najib razak

DEMOCRACY takes power away from the few, or the one, and places it in the hands of the many. Which is why we hear phrases like “people power” and “returning power to the people” bandied around when speaking about democratic reform.

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A Born Again Democrat. The late Lee Kuan Yew called him an Ultra.

Theoretically, if there is a free press, fairly delineated constituencies, independent state agencies and a respect for human rights, then the government of the day will be a reflection of the will of the people.

We, the ordinary men and women, choose our leaders. We can also “fire” them by voting them out. Therefore, we have ultimate power. However, just because power ultimately lies with the people, this does not mean that leaders have to bend to the will of the people all the time.

Sure we can vote them out (theoretically), but while they are in authority, they have a degree of freedom to do what they may deem to be right, even though the people might not like it. This is known as leadership.

This is why unpopular but ultimately worthy policies and legislation come into place. It takes leadership to do this. A person who is scared of losing popularity, especially among his core supporters, to the point of supporting noxious views, does not have leadership qualities.

Which is why if a government believes in certain things, the leaders must speak up accordingly. Conversely, they must speak up against things they don’t believe in.

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You are known by the company you keep: Hadi Awang, Zakir Naik,  Rani Kulop, Jamal Ikan Bakar, et.al

Let me give you an example. If a group spouts obnoxious racism, a true leader would speak out against it, even if the group members are among his supporters. If he does not do so, what it means is that he is condoning such views. Even if he is keeping silent so as to not alienate his support base, he is acting in a cowardly fashion and is in effect legitimising racism.

Now, I am saddened by the fact that racism in Malaysia is alive and well. When writing and teaching, I have consistently argued for us to move away from such attitudes. I honestly thought that there were more and more Malaysians who are of the same view. Sadly this is not so.

Surveys have shown that most Malays will vote based on race.This is depressing to the extreme. Yet, this is also the reality.

One of the reasons Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is the chosen Prime Minister candidate for Pakatan Harapan is so that he can woo the Malay vote. I am presuming his Malay nationalist background will make him palatable to those who still think along those lines.

This is the political reality, and it is beyond sad. Now, Pakatan has always claimed to be non-racially motivated. Yet they have to pander to a racially motivated electorate. This is realpolitik and it is upsetting yet understandable.

The question is, if Pakatan wins, will it try to move the nation away from such repulsive racist thinking? Will it be able to show some true leadership?

  • Azmi Sharom (azmi.sharom@gmail.com) is a law teacher. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.

 

BOOK REVIEW: Mahathir’s Ketuanan Melayu– Malaysia’s Road to Secular Decline


January 17, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: Mahathir’s Ketuanan Melayu– Malaysia’s Road to Secular Decline

by S. Thayaparan@www.malaysiakini.com

“The most powerful weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”

― Steve Biko

AB Sulaiman “argues that the sacred cows of the Malay community have, in effect, destroyed individualism and created a community that is constantly questioning its relevancy in a changing world, as opposed to adapting to a changing world “.–S. Thayaparan

BOOK REVIEW | AB Sulaiman’s book, ‘Ketuanan Melayu: A Story of the Thinking Norm of the Malay Political Elite’, cogently defines the agendas of the establishment hegemon and also the pervasive group-think that defines mainstream Malay politics.

Image result for AB Sulaiman’s book, ‘Ketuanan Melayu: A Story of the Thinking Norm of the Malay Political Elite’

AB Sulaiman makes the distinction between “race” and “culture” and examines the “Malay” construct through the racial and religious politics of the day, paying attention to history and lamenting that dissenting voices in the community have always been marginalised.

What is interesting about this book is that AB Sulaiman passionately (as opposed to clinically) disables narratives around what it means to be “Malay”, viewing the Malay culture through an ethno-linguistic lens, among various other social and political philosophies and theories. Do not let this dampen your enthusiasm for the book because AB Sulaiman writes in an easy-going friendly manner, even when offering up political and philosophical “sensitive” issues, to which he devotes a whole chapter.

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The most important takeaway from this book is that AB Sulaiman does not make the same mistake that some writers make when discussing Ketuanan Melayu. The writer understands that this is not a tool to unify the Malay polity. Ketuanan Melayu is a tool to divide the Malay polity. The writer makes it clear that the latter purpose is the defining characteristic of this social-political, but most importantly, religious-political construct.

What does this mean in AB Sulaiman’s weltanschauung? This concept is a political tool used to not only marginalise dissenting voices in the Malay community but to monopolise narratives to ensure that the political hegemony of dominant Malay power structures becomes the mainstream narrative of what it means to be “Malay”. This, according to the writer, is why dissenting Malay voices are vilified as “traitors” to the Malay “race” and unIslamic.

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With their mindsets, is it any wonder we can never be another South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan or China? Race-based logic is down the road to perdition.

Now, some would argue that the beginning chapters of the book that define certain concepts of different modes of thinking, linguistic theories and concepts such as nation and statehood are superfluous, but I presume that the author needs those chapters to set the scene, so to speak, to explore the complex dynamics, historical, philosophical and otherwise, of Malay society.

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AB Sulaiman correctly points to the political elite who use this hegemonic tool – Ketuanan Melayu – as a means to not only divide the Malay community but also constrain the rights, responsibilities and aspirations of the non-Malay/Muslim communities. The writer argues that the sacred cows of the Malay community have, in effect, destroyed individualism and created a community that is constantly questioning its relevancy in a changing world, as opposed to adapting to a changing world.

What I like about this book is the fact that the author points to the diversity in Islam as beneficial to religious societies. He makes it clear that the monolithic idea of Islam, as propagated by the state, creates friction between those Malays who want to explore their religion and those who believe that their dogma entitles them to some sort of religious, and in the Malaysian context, racial superiority.

This is important because it reflects why the opposition in this country, for instance, is bound by certain narratives of what it means to be “Malay” instead of encouraging diverse narratives that would mean that the concept of what it means to be “Malay” is not defined by the state.

‘Paradise Lost’

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The Malay Wira makes it clear to us that the corruption of the Malay political elites lies buried beneath an agenda of Islamic dogma and racial supremacy.

There is a whole chapter in the beginning on the constitutional definition of “Malay”. This chapter is interesting not only because it slays sacred cows but because the author makes no bones of his scepticism of this definition, using scientific and historical counter-arguments to make his case, which is the antithesis of what the political elites do or encourage.

My favourite chapter in the book is ‘Paradise Lost’, a comparison between Malaysia and South Korea in which the author states his intentions clearly – “In this chapter, I want to cite one more result of Ketuanan Melayu leadership showing the link between thinking and patterns of behaviour.

“This time I take two countries, Malaysia and South Korea and compare their relative social, economic and political record of performance from the early 1960s to date. My purpose is simple, how does the Malaysian political entity run on the basis of religion, race and nationalism, compared over time with the South Korean based on democracy and secularism.”

The author makes it clear, though, that he believes that the establishment has deliberately strayed from not only the spirit of the constitution but also engineered a manufactured Islamic revival which is detrimental to the country, but more importantly, detrimental to the progress of the Malay community. He makes it clear that the corruption of the political elites is buried beneath an agenda of Islamic dogma and racial supremacy.

In the author’s words – “Such policies are contrary to the basic principles and tenets of the constitution. For one, the founding fathers like Tunku Abdul Rahman have put on record that Malaysia should be a secular country run on the model of the Westminster form of constitutional monarchy; present policies adopted are running away from these ideals.

“Secondly, such policies are also running away from the ideals of democracy and human rights. So why is Ketunan Melayu running away from historically sound premises of democracy and human rights in leading the nation?”  Why indeed? The answer, of course, is in AB Sulaiman’s book.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

Pro-UMNO Ummah: Get Your Facts Right


January 16, 2018

Pro-UMNO Ummah: Get Your Facts Right

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/we-have-our-scars-chinese-army-vets-slams-ummah-for-denying-minorities-part#IGGMJvigPVc1uSm1.97

by  Anith Adilah

Macva president Major Tan Pau Son during Malaysian Armed Forces Chinese Veterans Association press conference at  The Boulevard Mid Valley City January 15, 2018. — Picture by Firdaus LatifMacva President Major Tan Pau Son during Malaysian Armed Forces Chinese Veterans Association press conference at The Boulevard Mid Valley City January 15, 2018.

Ethnic Chinese army veterans have railed against Malay-Muslim coalition Ummah today over the latter’s erroneous claim that only Malays had resisted British colonists, Japanese occupiers and Communist insurgents.

At a press conference today, Malaysian Armed Forces Chinese Veterans Association (Macva) President Major (Rtd) Tan Pau Son said cleric Ismail Mina Ahmad’s remarks were not only historically and factually wrong, but had belittled the contributions of the non-Malay veterans including the Ibans, Indians, Sikhs.

“We participated in defending our country and some of us still have scars to show that we were there — risking our lives,” Tan told a press conference at Mavca headquarters at Midvalley Boulevard here.

Tan said Mavca, with a membership close to 1,000 veterans since inception on August 31, 2016, and thousands who have passed on before them is a true testimony of a large group of Chinese veterans who had served loyally in military campaigns.

“Needless to say there were also Chinese veterans who sadly lost their lives and limbs in the defence of the nation. All Malaysians should rebutt all these inaccurate and irresponsible assertions made by Ismail,” he said.

iMalaysian Armed Forces Chinese Veterans Association pose for group photo after press conference at The Boulevard Mid Valley City January 15, 2018. — Picture by Firdaus LatifMalaysian Armed Forces Chinese Veterans Association pose for group photo after press conference at The Boulevard Mid Valley City January 15, 2018. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

Tan also pointed out that there were six Chinese members of the armed forces who were bestowed with the Panglima Gagah Berani medals for their extreme bravery: Colonel Maurice Lam Shye Choon, Major (Rtd) Lee Ah Pow, Second Lieutenant (Rtd) David Fu Chee Ming, Sergeant (Rtd) Choo Woh Soon, Sergeant Cheng Eng Chin, and Ranger Mat Isa Hassan.

Meanwhile, three others, Lieutenant Colonel Chong Kheng Ley, Lieutenant Colonel Leong Fook Cheong, and Captain Tien Sen An, were awarded Pingat Tentera Udara for their valour.

“We have Chinese veterans who receive gallantry awards and this alone is a testament that the Malays were not the only ones who protected the nation,” he said.

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On Saturday, Ismail who is the chairman of the Ummah umbrella group for Muslim organisations, also asserted that only the Malays had battled the Communists, which he claimed made the community a target of the predominantly-Chinese Insurgency that lasted for forty years.

One particular war veteran who narrowly escaped death while fighting a battle in Southern Thailand in 1978, said he was hurt and angered by Ismail’s remarks in the convention outlining the demands of the Muslim lobby.

 

Warrant Officer Patrick Lee Kai Tong said Ismail’s statement was not only ignorant but hurtful to armed forces who had witnessed countless deaths and suffered various injuries in the name of the country.

Lee, now 71, walks around with a hole in his left arm after being shot by the communists who had zeroed in on the Nuri helicopter he was in while landing to provide ammunition supply to his own troop.

“Does he even know what it is like to be in a warzone? He can say what he want but do not hurt people’s feelings,” Lee said.

“Maybe this scar from an M-16 is not enough for me to prove that I was there fighting for the country but know that every memory, every death — even the smell of it stays with me.”

Tan also chided Ismail for conveniently forgetting that there were many Malay members among the Communist insurgents.

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“In Ismail’s speech, he failed to mention that the 10th Regiment Malayan Communist Party was predominantly a Malay regiment unit operating in the jungles of Northern Malaysia and Southern Thailand. The leader was Abdullah CD and his followers Suriani Abdullah, Shamsiah Fakeh, Abu Samah Mohamad Kassim and Rashid Maidin,” Tan said.

Malaysian Politics: Is the opposition at odds with civil society?


January 9, 2018

Malaysian Politics: Is the opposition at odds with civil society?

by S Thayaparan@www.malaysiakini.com

It does not take a majority to prevail … but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.”
― Samuel Adams

COMMENT | A young reader ended his opening salvo of a lengthy email exchange with – “Sir, you were part of the problem.” I began the first of my responses, with – “Son, I am still part of the problem.” I get that young people are frustrated. They look around and they see old men with their old poisoned dreams leading the charge for a supposedly better future.

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Dynastic Politics in Malaysia

Amongst other issues, this young man wanted to know if I was familiar with the writings of Hafidz Baharom and his piece – “Don’t vote if they don’t change” – and what I thought about young people not voting, and why it is that the opposition seems to be at war with activists and civil society groups.

Well, as to the first part, I read everything that Hafidz writes. I already made my case as to why I think not voting is not an option. Mind you, I am not saying that Hafidz is wrong; just that I really want to see what happens if Pakatan Harapan takes control of the federal government. Does this sound flippant?

 Crypto-Mahathiristas?

Here is the thing. In all my writings, I have made it clear that I do not think that corruption is the existential threat facing Malaysia. I think extremist Islam is. I want to see if a Harapan-led government with a strong non-Malay/Muslim voice stems the tide of what I believe will eventually destroy this country. That is why I am voting. Others, of course, have different reasons.

As for the opposition seeming to be at war with activists, many people who are involved in “civil society” (honestly, I am not familiar with the current nomenclature) have written to me describing a hostile environment when it comes to activism and oppositional politics. Things have become worse, with the ascension of the former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the bête noire of many activists – for good reason – as the captain leading the charge to oust current UMNO grand poohbah, Najib Razak.

Many long-time activists infused with fresh talent, who assumed that Harapan state governments would be more conducive to change, tell me that most times getting the “meeting” is easier than it is with the BN regime, but actually getting things done, is more or less the same. Often, they are admonished to not “bite the hand that feeds them,” which seems like a common rejoinder these days.

The corrupt Blue Rogues play the race and religion card to create fear for Malay support

There was a time when activism and oppositional politics were not mutually exclusive. There was a time when “civil society” and oppositional personalities worked closely to highlight issues that former minister Zaid Ibrahim termed the “real stuff.” I suppose that is the double-edged sword of civil society making “tremendous progress since 2008” as articulated in the “birds of feather” declaration.

I do not think civil society made tremendous progress. I think the opposition political elite made tremendous progress buttressed by civil society groups, who did not really understand the nature of the beast. There is this assumption that just because the politics of civil society groups and oppositional political parties aligned, there was some sort of understanding. Politicians say a whole lot of horse manure to get elected and count on activists to pass their message, but once elected rely on their bases (partisanship) to stay elected.

Crypto-Mahathiristas?

The rise of a credible opposition and contender to the throne of Putrajaya meant not that issues or principles were taking centre stage but rather the rise of a new cabal of political elites who were just as interested in maintaining power as their political opponents. What made it even more tenuous for civil society types and activists was that the alternative press and social media which was “issue driven” become partisan echo chambers, where party affiliation trumped anything else. In other words, if you are not with us, you are against us.

Many activists are in support of the “birds of feather” declaration. Actually, I know many people who belong to diverse “civil society” groups who support this initiative. Indeed, there is nothing in that declaration that any rational person would disagree with. Yet many opposition supporters write to me asking me to tell these “selfish” people not to rock the boat and destroy Harapan’s chance of removing the corrupt Najib and his cronies from power.

Civil Society activists

I know a few people on that list. I do not say this to name drop, but only that “selfish” is not a term I would use to describe them, ever. Furthermore, many of those groups in that list do far more constructive and productive work than some state administrations and definitely the federal government. To dismiss, mock or vilify what they say, especially if you (like me) have a different view, I would argue is, well – and I really dislike using this word – unpatriotic.

That is the only word I can think of especially when what these folks are reaffirming are democratic and egalitarian principles that would actually save Malaysia. If only political parties, like Hafidz writes, were not “too chickenshit to actually stand for something contrary to public opinion, and would rather coast along for fear of losing their vote base, while trying to convince the conservatives to vote for them.”

Someone asked if I was a “crypto-Mahathirista” since I had penned two pieces, essentially arguing that Harapan should commit to the game they want to play. I write too plainly to be a crypto anything. You can disagree with what I write. You can accuse me of many things but waffling or obscurantism is not on the list. So while I disagree with Suaram adviser Kua Kia Soong, it is not because I think he is wrong but it is because for this election, I am committing to the game that I keep telling Harapan to commit to.

Lastly to answer the question in the title of this piece. It is not that the opposition is at odds with civil society. It is the opposition has become part of the establishment.The establishment is always at odds with civil society.


S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

Read more at https://www.malaysiakini.com/columns/407723#1JRAw0XpVfA0WeQ7.99